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Spotlight on: Mentor Cardinals

Location: Mentor, Ohio

Group: Ohio Division I


By Andre Coles

SportsPower Correspondent


When one thinks of Ohio Division I football powers in recent history, the Mentor Cardinals are usually at the top of everyone’s list.


The Cardinals are only the fourth team in history to have made back-to-back championship appearances, although they dropped both of those contests.


In both of those trips to Canton, the Cardinals faced very tough opponents.  In 2006, the Cardinals defeated Canton McKinley, 18-13, for the right to face undefeated Hilliard Davidson in the title contest.


Head coach Steve Trivisonno led the 13-1 Cardinals into the game with hopes of taking down Davidson, a powerhouse squad at the time. Although the Cardinals put forth their best effort, they fell short in double overtime, 36-35.


The Cardinals used the valuable knowledge and experience gained from the ‘06 season to climb their way back to the Div. I title game the following year.


This time, the Cardinals clawed their way through a brutal stretch in the Division playoffs for the right to face another undefeated state power, this time Saint Xavier.  But the Cardinals were no match for a stellar Bombers squad, and fell, 27-0.


Even though the Cardinals dropped both of these pinnacle contests, the Mentor program appears to be knocking on the door every year under the guidance of Trivisonno, and will likely so do for many more years to come.


Trivisonno is currently in his 11th season as head coach and has established a winning tradition at Mentor. Overall, he has compiled a record of 86-37, which includes the two playoff runs and title game appearances.


But to put in perspective just how special these 86 wins are, consider this.  At the end of the ‘08 season, the Cardinals will not have played one team with a losing record.  This is a tribute to how difficult it is to win in Div. I and also to just how formidable the Cardinal program is becoming.


Trivisonno, who is a former Cardinal himself, also competed at Bowling Green University and has been greatly recognized for his prowess as a head coach with numerous awards.


Trivisonno was named Lake County and Plain Dealer Coach of the Year in ‘98, ‘02 and ‘03. He was also named the Cleveland Browns’ Coach of the Year in ‘02 and ‘06, and the Northeast Ohio Div. I Coach of the Year in ‘02 and ‘03.


In addition to a talented group of student-athletes, it’s easy to see why the Cardinals are always at the doorstep of a championship. Trivisonno keeps his team focused and motivated, as evidenced by his three annual goals: Win the Lake Erie Division title outright (which he has done five times), win more than ten games (which has been done four times) and win a state championship (the last item to check off on the list).


And in ’08, the Cardinals are once again in supreme position to compete for the Div. I championship with a strong showing so far this season.  Although Mentor dropped early season contests to St. Ignatius and Strongsville, two state powers, expect these Cardinals, with Trivisonno at the helm, to be playing deep into the season once again.











Want to see your team spotlighted? E-mail editor Adam C. Warner with your picks at  




Check out these interviews from the 2007 season with Mentor head coach Steve Trivisonno and Mr. Ohio 2007, quarterback Bart Tanski.




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Spotlight on: Gilbert Tigers

Hometown: Gilbert Arizona

Group: 5A


By Brett Manney

SportsPower Correspondent


Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the first moon landing, Woodstock and the Vietnam War were all prevalent when Jesse Parker won his first high school football game as a head coach.


The year was 1969 – an era far different from today, as the Internet, cell phones and DVDs are now the norm.


Meanwhile, the Gilbert head coach now has 309 wins to his resume.


Times certainly have changed.


Parker was 29 when he first coached Phoenix Campbell high school and now, at 68, he is officially the all-time winningest coach in Arizona history, surpassing Karl Kiefer, who last coached at Mountain Point High


For such a big accomplishment, one would figure that Parker is ecstatic about his milestone, but that’s not the case. According to Jason Skoda of the Arizona Republic, Parker said, “It’s hard to think of personal records when you are trying to prepare each week. I’m proud I have been in it this long and still have a connection with the kids.”


Extremely modest from a coach who has won so many games that his milestone is almost an afterthought compared to his game preparation and relationships formed throughout the years.


Indeed, Parker does have a connection that stems from coaching teenagers for 39 years and shows no signs of stopping. Moreover, he has five 5A state championships on his record, in addition to nine state championship game appearances.


Parker emphasizes that his players get the most out of their ability. While he might be critical at times, he still finds a way to win football games. With six wins this year and only two losses to powerhouses Hamilton (6-1, State PR: 77.78, Rank 6) and  Salpointe Catholic (7-1, State PR: 71.45, Rank 8), Parker has produced another winning season with two games remaining, plus the potential for postseason play.


Yet, believe it or not, but there is company at the top for Parker. Tucson Amphitheater’s (4-4, State PR: 55.71, Rank 27) Vern Friedli, 72, has 307 career wins and his remaining three opponents are a combined 7-9. 


It’s possible that there could be two active coaches who pass the career wins mark by the end of the regular season. Friedli, who has been coaching for 46 years, said to Casey Crowe of the Arizona Daily Star of his record, “It would be nice. But that’s not what we predicate everything on. And it never has been.”


This is just another perfect example of a class act putting a monumental milestone behind a simple league game.


The milestone win for Parker finally came to fruition last Friday when the Tigers defeated Fiesta League foe Highland (4-3, State PR: 52.60, Rank 25), 21-0.   


And so while the world around him has changed drastically, Parker’s winning ways have not. When he won his 309th game, Parker handled his business like he won his first game almost 40 years ago.


Of course, minus the congratulatory text messages and digital camera photos capturing a moment well deserved.


Next up: October 31 at Chandler (State PR: 63.62, Rank: 13).



Got any teams you want featured in the next spotlight? E-mail editor Adam C. Warner at



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Spotlight: Harrison Hawks

Hometown: Farmington Hills, Michigan

Group: MI Class A Oakland-White League


By Omar Muhammad

SportsPower Correspondent


The Harrison Hawks have been one of the top high school football programs in the state of Michigan since 1970, and it’s easy to see why.


The squad has been led by excellent coaching and leadership ever since the early 70s and continues to receive a steady influx of talent due to its suburban Detroit location. And that same leadership that helped the program along decades ago is still part of the team today.


Since ’70, the Hawks have been led by legendary head coach John Herrington. In his 38 years at the helm, Herrington has composed a brilliant record of 354-82-1, which includes a dozen Michigan High School Football State Championships.


Due largely to his success with Harrison, Herrington was inducted into the Michigan Coaching Hall of Fame in ‘86 for both football and baseball. Herrington not only coached at Harrison, but at North Farmington High as well.


Meawhile, the elite coaching ability and leadership skills exemplified by Herrington is a big reason why the team has had such great success. Herrington coaches to the strengths of his players and has found a unique way to reach his athletes.


Those attributes are clear, as evidenced by the team’s 12 state titles in ‘81, ‘82, ’88-‘89, ‘91, ’93-’94 and ’97-‘01. Harrison’s last championship witnessed one of the greatest offensive displays in team history, as the Hawks put up a team record of 438 points and 3,952 yards of total offense.


In addition to a top-notch coaching staff, Farmington’s location as an upscale suburb just outside of Detroit could also play a factor towards the success of the football team. With a city population of 82,111, and a school enrollment of more than 1,200 students, Harrison has had the ability to develop stellar student-athletes in football and all other sports.


This season, the Hawks have struggled, however, posting a record of 4-5. Three out of the team’s four loses have come against key conference opponents, including Southfield, Rochester Adams and a 20-19 defeat to rival Farmington. The Hawks haven’t had a down season like this since ’04, when they went 4-5 and missed the playoffs.





And while the team hasn’t been back to the pinnacle contest in some time, with Herrington at the helm and a wealth of talent streaming in, the Hawks will likely be competing for another title in the years to come.






Got any teams you want to be spotlighted? E-mail editor Adam C. Warner at 



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Public vs. Private School Debate

Posted by adam_sp Oct 27, 2008

By Ryan Rohde

SportsPower Correspondent


Saint Joseph’s Prep -- a longtime Philadelphia-area high school football powerhouse -- typically sees its season end with a Philadelphia Catholic league championship or a stout record of 10-0 or 9-1.


This season, however, there is even more to strive for than just a league title. The Philadelphia Catholic league has chosen to participate in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association in 2008 with an opportunity for all of its teams to win a state championship.


This was a dream never even possible before the season.


So now that St. Joseph's can compete in the same postseason as the rest of its PIAA counterparts, especially with a roster that boasts a number of kids from southern New Jersey and from the surrounding Philadelphia area -- a priviledge that public school teams do not have --  it raises the question: Do private school football teams have an advantage over the public school teams that they compete against?


The question over whether public school and private schools should play in the same leagues or playoff classes intensifies with each passing year. The topic has been controversial and often times sparks emotion in parents, fans and administrators.


Each state association has different rules and regulations on the matter. For instance in some states, like California and Florida, it's considered normal to have private schools playing along side public schools during the regular season and postseason.


But there are also states like Mississippi and Alabama where most private schools play in a separate league not associated with the state.


But perhaps the bulk of the controversy stems from the ability of private schools to “recruit." Private schools, unlike public schools, are not regulated by school districts to designate where its students and athletes come from. Many coaches, players, and fans claim this gives the private schools an unfair advantage.


“Most public schools have a down year or two within a twenty year period," said Steven Hoard, head coach of the Bradford Tornadoes (Fla.) in an October 13th blog. "The advantages of a controlled enrollment, the ability to recruit players from other school zones through out the state, out of state recruitment, international recruitment and unlimited resources give many private schools a uneven advantage that is within the current rules of the FHSAA.”


Coach Hoard echoes many sentiments heard throughout many high school athletics communities. He agrees that the talent pool from which these private schools have to select from is much greater than that of a public school. This, in turn, leaves an uneven playing field and gives private schools a better chance of restocking talent for the following years. Over time, the players from this pool tend to gravitate towards the better football programs.


And recruiting problems are not just limited to football or private schools, there is also a recruiting issue in public schools as well.


The case of Martin Babovic, a foreign exchange student from Serbia, caused a major stir in the California Interscholastic Federation- Southern Section league very recently.



Babovic was a standout player on the Corona del Mar water polo team. CIF-SS officials deemed Babovic ineligible because of pre-enrollment contact. The contact took place between the host family and Babovic before he was enrolled in the foreign-exchange program through e-mails and phone calls. Officials saw this action as an “undue influence,” which broke CIR-SS regulations and ruled Babovic ineligible.


Some states have even taken measures to separate public and private schools. In Mississippi, for instance, private and public schools play under different state associations, and until the '07 season, were not allowed to even schedule or play one another. The only controversy at the end of the season was over who was the better team, the public champ or the private champ.


In order to find the facts, a study was done by the Ohio High School Athletic Association on public and private high school football teams. In Ohio, most of the private and public school teams play for the same state title.





The study showed that in '07, out of the 640 public school teams, 162 (25.3%) made the playoffs, 133-145 was the playoff record (47.8%) with only 17 (10.5%) schools that made it past round three of the playoffs. Meanwhile with private schools, out of 76 total schools, 30 (39.5%) reached the playoffs, 35-23 (60.3%) was the overall playoff record, and seven (23.5%) programs made it beyond round three.


The numbers indicate that there is a discernable difference in the success of the public and private school programs, but some state associations haven taken steps to reduce the potential for league or state dominance by a single school.


In one case, Concord De LaSalle, out of California, was kicked out of its league and forced to play a freelance schedule because the football team was too dominant. The CIF-SS had implemented rules for determining a team to be “too good." For example, the team had to make the CIF-SS five years consecutively, post a dominant win-loss record against league schools and have a vast majority of its wins be by an excessive margin during that five-year span.


But even with rules like these implemented, the debate over whether a team must leave a league will still be controversial.


The question of private vs. public will likely be talked about through the history of high school athletics. The fact remains that there is no right or wrong way to answer these questions. It seems like the only solution for coaches and players is to keep playing.





After all, high school football is more than just state titles and wins.











If you have any ideas for an upcoming spotlight story, e-mail editor Adam C. Warner at







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Spotlight on: Valhalla Norsemen

Hometown: El Cajon, Ca.

Group: San Diego Section


By Jimmy Oliver

SportsPower Correspondent


Norsemen were true warriors of the 9th and 10th centuries, capable of conquering regions of the globe through their vast naval armory. 


Meanwhile, the Valhalla Norsemen (State PR: 81.25, Rank: 7), though not trying to conquer via warfare, are certainly looking to take over the San Diego section of California high school football.


Coming into this weekend, Valhalla sits comfortably at 6-1 overall after starting the season a perfect 5-0 before falling to a tough Helix team, 28-14. On the heels of that defeat, the Norsemen crushed Monte Vista, 31-7. By the looks of it, this is a team determined to find its winning ways again, and by the looks of it, may very well do so through the end of the campaign. 


The Norsemen are loaded with talent and football prowess and are equipped with the ability to dominate the field the rest of the way. The combined record for the squad’s remaining opponents currently stands at 10-12.


Leading the way through a stretch run that could very well see Valhalla at 9-1 when all said and done is junior quarterback Peter Thomas.  Thomas has thrown for nearly 1,600 yards this season while hitting receivers for a whopping 19 touchdowns.  And perhaps even more impressive is the fact that he has only two interceptions in 168 attempts so far this season. 


While dominant through the air, the Norsemen also find success on the ground. Junior running back Traivonne Brown has amassed 437 yards and four touchdowns to date, averaging a stellar seven yards per attempt. Brown’s success, merged with a dynamic passing attack, has made the play calling a rather easy task for coach Steve Sutton. It’s apparent that this diverse, speedy and athletic offense has caused opposing defenses to simply guess at what’s coming next.


Defensively, the Norsemen have been conquering opponents in a variety of ways. Valhalla’s unit is assembled of playmakers, as evidenced by the team’s 12 total sacks and eight interceptions. Defensive lineman Shane Pennix has been a standout for his squad, leading the way with five sacks and 27 tackles altogether.


Sutton knows that while “a great offense puts people in the seats, a great defense wins championships.” 


Just as the Norsemen of centuries ago, the Valhalla Norsemen are rolling through the San Diego section with a mission of dominating all foes that stand in their way.  And so far, Sutton’s team appears to have the tools and the players to be the team standing on top by season’s end.




Next up: 10/31 vs. Steele Canyon (State PR: 68.01, Rank: 20). 







If you have any suggestions for upcoming spotlight teams, send an e-mail to editor Adam Warner at







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